Jean-Claude Risset passes away- stem to steam an inheritor of his ideas, inventions and music


With sadness we learn of Jean Claude Risset’s passing way on Nov 21 in Marseille.

For a good summary of his career ( in french with links to texts): 

or in english:

When I arrived in France to the CNRS and Aix-Marseille University in 1995, Risset was just a kilometer away in the Laboratoire de Mechanique et Accoustique ( LMA) and his laboratoire d’informatique et d’acoustique musicale. For me he is an examplar of the “new leonardos” today whose work straddles the sciences and the arts , in his case accoustics , digital tools and contemporary music, and of course music that could not have been made in any other age. But he also navigated the rapidly changing technology landscape, leading directions that now see so natural…from musical synthesis to digital remix.  His knowledge of psychoacoustics led him to explore sonic illusions such as the  Glissando Shepard-Risset effect which sounds if the sound descends for ever ( ).

During his later years he dedicated his work to composing so we look forward to a fascinating legacy= the last time I met him was when we were setting up the IMERA art-science residency program (ASIL) . He had many ideas and suggestions. We had of course read his art-science report for the french government ( ). Resulting from  chairing  a committee on art/science/technology he made specific recommendations to the french government, few of which unfortunately were implemented. The report was a pre cursor to Bill Mitchell’s “Beyond Productivity” ( ) and subsequent reports in europe the usa and elsewhere that first promoted the cultural industries,  our own SEAD report (   Steps to an Ecology of Networked Knowledge and Innovation: Enabling New Forms of Collaboration among Sciences, Engineering, Arts, and Design ) in 2015. The international discussion is now thickening into the STEM TO STEAM movement including new funding programs such as STARTS ( )

. Summary of the  Risset report:

‘The field of the arts is important for itself, but also in relation to the efflorescence of the digital. The arts feed cultural industries to a huge potential market. The progress of science and technology provides the art of new tools, new materials and new methods. Art can also be engine of scientific and technological innovation. The possibilities of the computer and multimedia make possible new heuristic approaches, for which the artistic research can be articulated with basic research.Therefore, that an organized search snaps into place on a subject that involves a chain of different actors: researchers, designers, educators, publishers, manufacturers, economists… It is particularly important that artistic concerns could penetrate to the heart of research. However, by tradition, the arts do not have in France the place they deserve in the University and research communities. This report deepens those expected and examines ways of enhancing the art-science-technology synergy. The first volume, synthesis and body of proposals, refers to a second volume of more full-text analysis and documentation. The report is articulated following five axes: the identification of resources; remarks on computer networks; the study of scientific strategies; directions of research; economic issues. “

He received the gold medal of the CNRS and the Legion of Honor.

He leaves a legacy internationally but also in Marseille with his exemplar laying the institutional rationales that legitimises the creation of a number of art science technology labs in France ( eg ASTRAM in Marseille :  led by Jacques Sapiega ). Music was one of the first arts that rapidly adopted and then transformed digital media in the 60s, and France among the first initiators of new computer music institutions such as IRCAM. For an excellent speech of his summarising his own career , vision, mentors and ideas see

Roger Malina

Jean-Claude Risset, who reimagined digital synthesis, has died

” French electronic visionary Jean-Claude Risset has sadly died. According to French media reports, Risset passed away on Monday (November 21) in Marseille. He was 78.

Alongside the likes of Pierre Henry, Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Boulez, Risset brought early electronic music into new, unexplored territories. With a training in physics, piano and composition, he is often seen as the first French musician to ever use computers for composition and music production.

Born in 1938, Risset began his music career in his early 20s when he studied composition under the guidance of André Jolivet, before joining fellow electronic music pioneer Max Matthews in 1964 at Bell Labs in New Jersey. Together, Risset and Matthews help create the MUSIC IV software to digitally recreate the sounds of brass instruments.”

See also: )

Roger Malina

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